An alternative to dentures, dental implants (small dental appliances that are inserted into the upper and lower jaws) help to restore the mouth that has little or no non-restorable teeth. Dental implants are slowly replacing dentures used by some people, as they provide many advantages over traditional dentures.
For some people, particularly persons with loose or poor fitting dentures due to flat ridges, or persons with multiple missing teeth who need support for crowns and bridges, implants may be considered a more appropriate alternative to fix the appearance of missing teeth than dentures. According to the American Academy of Implant Prosthodontics, implants help to accomplish the following:
- reduce movement of dentures, bridges, and/or crowns
- facilitate proper chewing
- provide support and improved stability for removable dentures or fixed bridge work
- approximate the "feel" of natural teeth better than dentures
- promote "denture self-confidence", as speech and appearance are often improved
There are many variables to be considered before placing an implant:
- the patient must be healthy
- healing abilities affected by a disease may affect the successfulness of an implant
- a proper diagnosis must be made before an implant can be placed
- placement and technique is specific to each individual candidate
- to further prevent complications, the implant(s) must be treated properly by the patient and the dentist
- heavy smoking and drinking may affect the successfulness of an implant
There are many different types of dental implants from which to choose, including:
- an artificial bone substitute
This type of implant involves a synthetic bone substitute being fitted on top of the bone to help rebuild the shrinking ridge and provide sturdy support for dentures. Because it is made of the same type of mineral found in natural bone, this type of implant bonds to the existing jaw bone.
- endosteal implants
This type of implant is inserted into the jaw bone to serve as the tooth's root.
- subperiosteal implants
This type of implant, usually an option for persons who can no longer wear conventional dentures, involves a lightweight, specially-designed, metal implant that fits directly on the existing bone.
Dental implants may either be inserted by a dentist specially training in implantology, or by an oral surgeon in a hospital.
According to the American Academy of Implant Prosthodontists, implants are made of biologically compatible materials which have undergone extensive testing over a period of several years. Since these materials are largely metals, such as titanium, and have never been living tissue, there is no likelihood of causing an antigen-antibody response which could cause rejection similar to that which sometimes occurs with heart and kidney transplants.
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